Maintaining Healthy Foreskin

Not all men have foreskins, so proper foreskin care is not necessarily common knowledge. Fortunately, keeping your foreskin clean and healthy doesn’t require much work.

Key takeaways:
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    Foreskin care is simple but necessary. Daily washing with soap and water is important for foreskin health.
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    Infants and children usually do not need any special foreskin care until the foreskin is retractable.
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    Knowing what your penis and foreskin look and feel like when they are healthy is important for identifying potential problems.

Daily washing and inspection of your penis and foreskin are all it takes to maintain a healthy foreskin and recognize when there is a problem. Here is everything you need to know about keeping your foreskin clean and healthy.

Foreskin Health

Foreskin is the skin that covers the head of the penis (the glans). Uncircumcised men and boys have an intact foreskin that requires a little extra care when keeping clean. Taking regular showers or baths is important for good hygiene, but you need to make sure that everything is getting clean. Dead skin cells, sweat, and oil from the skin can build up beneath the foreskin, leading to a range of problems from foul odors to serious infections.

Infants and Children

Infants and small children usually do not need much foreskin care. At birth, the inside of the foreskin is attached to the glans, or head, of the penis. As a child ages, his foreskin slowly separates, allowing it to retract. Children whose foreskins do not retract do not need much care, just normal bathing. If the foreskin does not retract, do not force it. This can cause painful skin tears and may lead to dangerous scarring of the penis. In severe cases, the foreskin could get stuck behind the head of the penis (paraphimosis), a medical emergency that can lead to permanent damage to the penis if left untreated.

Until the foreskin is fully retractable, the tip of the penis only needs to be washed with water. If soap or detergent gets under the foreskin it can cause irritation that may lead to pain, itching, or swelling of the foreskin and/or glans (balanitis). As the foreskin separates from the glans and becomes more movable, smegma may form under the foreskin. Smegma is simply dead skin cells that collect under the foreskin along with oils and sweat. This is completely normal and simply needs to be washed away with water and mild soap.

Teens and Adults

When most boys reach puberty they will be able to retract their foreskin, however, everyone is different. About 10% of boys can retract their foreskin at 1 year old, 50% at 10 years old, and 99% by age 17. It is not unusual for young adults to have a foreskin that does not fully retract. Once the foreskin is fully retractable, it should be retracted to clean underneath the foreskin.

Keeping the foreskin clean is a daily task. A healthy foreskin does not need much maintenance, just regular washing with soap and water. Be sure to wash away all soap, as some soaps have dyes and fragrances that can irritate sensitive skin, especially if trapped beneath the sensitive skin of the foreskin.

Foreskin Problems

In addition to keeping the foreskin clean, daily washing also allows you to inspect the penis for potential problems. It is important to know what your penis and foreskin look like and feel like normally, so you can know when something is wrong. Any changes to the penis can be a sign of a medical problem. Be sure to look out for itching, redness, swelling, scarring, discharge, tightening of the foreskin, or inability to retract the foreskin. Redness, swelling, or discharge can be a sign of balanitis. If your foreskin is tight or is interfering with urination, you could have phimosis. If your foreskin gets stuck in a retracted position you could have paraphimosis, a medical emergency.

Maintain Healthy Habits

Keeping your foreskin clean and healthy is not difficult and does not require much effort. Daily washing (with soap and water) and inspection of the penis and foreskin are all that are needed to maintain a healthy foreskin. If you notice changes in your foreskin or penis or if you develop any foreskin problems, seek medical care.


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